Review by Jon C. Stott
Roadkill Justice: Featuring Yooper Woodswoman Nettie Bramble is set somewhere in the north-central section of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (I think, maybe, in Baraga County), there’s a place called Budworm. Residing there are such people as Sammy Snert, Miss Linda Figgy (aka Miss Figgy), Tag Elder, Digger Swiftwater, and Tillie Thudbottom. It’s the location of such regular “celebrations” as the Fall Frenzy, the Church Harvest of Virtue Bazaar, the Spring Ding-Sing, the Wrinkle Ranch Rock and Roll Prom Bomb, and the Road Rage Rally.
You won’t find the place on any map of the Upper Peninsula, the names in any Baraga County phone directory, or the celebrations on any events calendars or listings. But, if you’ve been a regular reader of the UP Magazine in recent years you’ve encountered them in stories created by the UP’s premiere humorist, Terri Martin. And, if you haven’t, you can read many of them in three collections of Martin’s laugh-out-loud yarns: Church Lady Chronicles: Devilish Encounters (GnarlyWoods Publications, 2020), High on the Vine: Featuring Yooper Entrepreneurs Tami &Evi Maki (Gnarly Woods Publications, 2022) and Roadkill Justice: Featuring Woodswoman Nettie Bramble (Modern History Press, 2023).
The central figure in the first is Bea Righteous, a resident of the Gnarly Woods Senior Complex, who, after one of her activities has had disastrous consequences, laments: “As usual, it wasn’t my fault and, as usual, everyone blamed me.” And, as usual, she sees the actions of the Devil as the cause for the debacle. Evi and Tami Maki, the heroines of the second collection, are cousins third-removed and, more important, married to a couple of backwoods reprobates who are cousins and uncles to each other. Evi and Tami decide to renovate their spouses’ filthy and rundown deer camp into a “she shed” – which later becomes a rustic vacation rental (no electricity or indoor plumbing), a chicken ranch, and a winery – and, in all cases, the site of humorous chaos.
Nettle Bramble (she calls herself Nettie) is the heroine of the most recent collection: Roadkill Justice. She lives with her mother at the end of a two-track in the toolies beyond Budworm in a “dwelling” that has no electricity or indoor plumbing. The two live on her mother’s small monthly assistance check and the fruits of her own skill with a shotgun and fishing pole. Her hunting/fishing endeavors are done without the appropriate licenses: “It was a matter of principle that I don’t get a license of any kind.” But she protests that she doesn’t poach, “even eggs.” Her stubborn defense of her principles leads her into constant conflicts with a distant relative, the conservation officer Will Ketchum and their cat-and-mouse games are humorously detailed in several of the stories. At the end, there is electricity and indoor plumbing, and maybe even a boyfriend for Nettie on the horizon – but you’ll have to read the stories to discover how this all happens.
Terri Martin writes fast-paced little tales peppered with humorous disasters following one after another. After enjoying a couple, readers will come to expect mishaps aplenty, but they will read actions to discover what these mishaps are, what causes them, and how they turn out. If you live in the UP, you’ll have heard plenty of fish tales and hunting sagas from your outdoor friends. Some of them may be whoppers, but none as big as the ones Nettie Bramble tells.
The misadventures are very funny, but what I liked most about Roadkill Justice was the portrayal of the characters, particularly Nettie. She’s feisty, she’s often devious, but she stands up for family: her mother (who is constantly sipping on her medicine, which is purchased at a Budworm party store), her wimpy nephews, Wanton and Wiley (often left with her by her parents, who need “a break”), to whom she wishes to teach woodcraft; and sometimes even distant relative Will Ketchum, who constantly fails to catch her red-handed.
If you need a short break from the rigors of a gray day, or you want to fill in the time when a seemingly endless run of commercials interrupts the flow of a movie you’ve been watching, or you can’t get back to sleep after one of those late-night trips down the hall, read one of the stories in Roadkill Justice (or the other two collections). You’ll find yourself smiling, you may even turn off the movie, and you might laugh yourself to sleep (while waking everyone else in the house up).
PS: At the end of the collection, Nettie thinks about Digger Swiftwater, who sunk a well shaft on her property and doesn’t believe in licenses: “Maybe I’d have a beer with Swiftwater. I might have something in common [with him].” I hope she does –they could make a great couple.
Terri Martin, Roadkill Justice: Featuring Woodswoman Nettie Bramble (Modern History Press, Ann Arbor, MI, 2023)